Advice for New Writers

IconOtherAdvice250So … today there is a little hot debate about the “advice for new writers” over on a social board I frequent. It was written to strike “humility” (not my word) into the hearts of the young. Obviously, for numerous reasons, it got a little ‘hot around the collar’ … some called the original advice “arrogant” and “belligerent” … and there is a part of me that couldn’t help but to agree, although I do respect and flat-out like the original poster.

See, two years ago I was “new” … scary times … I stepped onto that board with a binder full of (not women) questions.  I had written (or half written) a book, but as to what came next?  Hadn’t a clue in the world.

That board, the one aforementioned where this lively little discussion ensued, is where I learned about things like agents and cover design and formatting and promotion.  And see, two years later, I’ve been able to cash in on that advice.

  • I have an agent
  • I have, if people are to be believed, nice covers
  • I have a great formatter who is amazeballs
  • I have become a “best seller” by promotion ventures*

Now, I have a binder full of (not women) answers to questions I wasn’t smart enough to know I needed to ask.

So, I came up with my own list … which is probably as good as the paper it’s written on — which means ‘not good at all since it’s not actually written on paper’ … but this blog has a journal template, so here we go …

1. Ask your questions, get your answers.  Things change, rapidly.  What was modern and fresh yesterday may be archaic today, a la Select.  So if you’re curious about where to price your book, or if the cover you like is working for your context … by all means, ASK!

2. Trust yourself above anyone else because it’s your name on the cover, not mine and not anyone else’s either.  If you’re looking for answers on publishing, promotion, pricing, covers, blurbs, then chances are you’re Indie … which means independent, so embrace the moniker, doll. We’re here to help, but you don’t need to believe everything we say and take it as gospel. What works for the aforementioned “greats” (and there was a list of them about 5 deep in the original post) may not work for you … so if it doesn’t, don’t force it.  Publishing isn’t a one size fits all, not even for those professionals, who were, believe it or not, once new with questions of their own.

3. Fail, but fail trying.  And age-old sentiment, but totally true.  If the first book flops, shrug it off and write again. Not every writer will find his or her audience, but the moment you quit is also the moment you guarantee you never will.

4. Grow some thick ass skin.  The sooner you do it, the better off you’ll be.

5. Prepare yourself now for the first five-star review and the first one-star review.  They’re both valid.  Teach yourself to take both in stride.

6. Read…and read, a lot.  Read everything you can get your hot little hands on.  Read the genre you’re pursuing and other genres, too.  Figure out what works in the market and what doesn’t. Last year, New Adult didn’t formally exist, this year it’s the BIG THING … so pay attention to trends and figure out how they impact your own novels.

7. Take yourself seriously and other’s will too.  Don’t talk about how “new” you are … talk, instead, about how “eager” you are.  One is more endearing than the other.

8. Pay it all forward.  You won’t be “new” for very long, things move fast once you’re in the thick of it … but try to remember what it felt like the first time, that virginal experience of being an “unknown.”  And so, when someone asks, “how do I price my book?” … don’t roll your eyes, groan and begrudge them what they don’t know … answer them!  Take five minutes of your life and give them what someone once gave you.

The publishing world — trade, self, indie, hybrid, whatever — is a big, shaggy beast.  We try to tame it, but we never will.  It evolves, we evolve.  But somewhere along the way, we opened the barn door latch and now we have new souls entering our arena everyday.  But try to remember this: This, our profession, isn’t the Hunger Games, we don’t need to eat our young, folks … we need work with them, for them, and towards a common goal of making literature (in all forms) as truly amazing as it can be.

*qualified via the Amazon the best seller Kindle list, thankyouverymuch.

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